Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released the following statement today after the U.S. Senate and U.S. House passed the fiscal year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill, sending to President Biden’s desk several crucial investments to advance the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) priorities for rural America:
“As we wrap up a successful year advancing USDA’s priorities to build more, new and better markets for producers, tackle food and nutrition insecurity, and ensure wealth is created and stays in rural communities, I’m pleased that Congress has come together to pass the Omnibus bill that delivers some resources crucial to continuing our work on behalf of the American people.
“This funding package will support USDA’s operations and wide reach into every community across the nation and help make USDA more efficient, effective, and better equipped to advance racial justice, equity and opportunity for the customers we serve. With increases in agricultural research and investments in Rural Development, this Administration will continue to prioritize economic development and growth in rural America, and put producers at the heart of solutions to climate change, including through our Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative, infrastructure, and fairer, more resilient food systems.
“I’m particularly excited to see the creation of a permanent, nationwide summer EBT to ensure kids receive healthy meals year-round. We will also be able to continue carrying out our critical wildfire suppression and management work, through additional funds for fire suppression and extension of the firefighter pay cap waiver, and support producers grappling with climate disasters through new disaster assistance funds. The bill provides increases for food safety and research, as well as several increases for rural housing programs to fund all expiring rental assistance contracts, for multi-family housing construction and rehabilitation and an expansion of the Tribal Housing Relending Demonstration program. The bill fully funds nutrition programs at a critical time when these programs are all the more important as inflation has increased the cost of groceries for American families.
“I also want to thank the Senate for taking action on nominees crucial to USDA’s mission, including Alexis Taylor, Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs; Jose Emilio Esteban, Ph.D. as Under Secretary for Food Safety and Doug McKalip, who is departing USDA, but will serve in a crucial role as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
“USDA is ready to hit the ground running in 2023 to keep expanding our economy from the bottom up and middle out and ensure that rural communities, farmers, ranchers, and producers are empowered with the tools necessary to thrive.”